In an uncertain and changing political environment, they have to act positively in order to keep their programs and their jobs.
Groups of supporters are one way agencies compete to survive.
The general public and interest groups are important for agencies because members of Congress are sensitive to voters' wishes.
Congress will not want to cut an agency's budget if it will anger a lot of people.
Agencies try to control services that are important to important groups.
The groups are obvious in most cases.
Department of Agriculture employees work hard for farming interests, not just because they believe in the programs, but also because they need strong support from agricultural clienteles to survive.
The IRS, whose mission is tax collection, has few groups to support them because their work does not earn them a lot of fans.
The survival incentives for bureaucratic agencies do not encourage agencies to work for the broader public interest but rather to cultivate special interests that are likely to be more politically active and powerful.
This is a problem even for independent regulatory commissions.
Commissions become creatures of the interests they are supposed to regulate.
The regulatory bureaucrats come to share the views of the regulated industries as they become more immersed in a policy area.
The general public doesn't hire teams of lawyers, consultants, or lobbyists to represent its interests, so the larger public's preferences tend to be less well formed.
There is a lot at stake for the regulated industries.
One way to stay alive is to offer services that no other agency provides.
There are departments and agencies that deal with specific problems.
They don't want to overlap with other agencies because it could lead to congressional cuts.
In many instances, agencies reach explicit agreements about dividing up the policy turf in an effort to avoid competition.
Good public policy can be undermined by turf jealousy.
For example, the military.
The armed services successfully resisted a unified weapons procurement, command, and control system.
Each branch wanted to keep its independence in weapons development, logistics, and communications technologies, which cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
It was difficult to get the branches to give up control of their turf.
One of the president's jobs is that of chief administrator.
A clear chain of command is suggested by the organizational charts of departments and agencies.
Being "the boss" doesn't mean that the boss always gets his or her way.
The relationship between the president and the bureaucracy has been frustrating.
Presidents have more or less clear policy agendas that they believe they have been elected to accomplish, and with amazing consistency complain that their own departments and agencies are unresponsive.
Although the president has some authority over the bureaucracy, it's different perspectives and goals that make it hard for the chief administrator to plan.
The mayor of San Juan and the governor of Puerto Rico asked the president to declare the island a federal disaster area after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived soon after to assess the damage and coordinate relief and aid, but the government response was not up to par.
Presidents can often use the mechanisms of the bureaucracy to accomplish some of their goals, but also through other administrative suggestions, directives, and encouragement.
When working with Congress is too controversial or impossible, presidents can use existing laws to achieve some of their preferred polices.
Through the EPA, directives to agencies in the Department of Homeland Security not to deport Dreamers or their families, and the Justice Department's determination that the Defense of Marriage Act was not constitutional, Obama was able to make strides on climate change policy.
He directed the Justice Department not to use its limited resources to challenge state marijuana laws that ran counter to federal law, and he directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to close the so-called gun show loophole.
What's at stake.
Trump reversed a lot of what Obama did by undoing his directions to the bureaucracy.
His decision to separate refugee families at the border was clearly his interpretation of a law that had never been used before, even though he blamed Democrats for it.
The Department of Justice in the refugee case can help the president make policy changes by not obstructing them if Congress is hostile.
There are a few ways in which presidents can shape the bureaucracy.
Presidents have the power to control the bureaucracy.
The power of appointment is the first.
The heads and the next layer of undersecretaries and deputy secretaries are appointed by the president.
The cabinet secretaries and agency administrators are in charge of the departments and agencies.
The president's formal power is often watered down by the political realities of the appointment and policymaking processes.